The Hyperion Music & Arts Festival may call the sleepy unassuming town of Spencer Indiana home, but the festival itself is far from sleepy and unassuming. Hyperion was founded on the premise that new electronic music festivals should cultivate visual splendor just as much as sonic prowess and was thusly named after the Greek lord of light. This mission seems pretty noble in the current festival environment where big lineups sell expensive tickets to massive audiences.
It might seem unattainable in a culture where these once intimate gatherings have been commodified into big business. But despite the odds against them Hyperion has been able to greatly exceed expectations two years running by transforming its humble home into resplendent festival grounds that provide ample space to its inhabitants, foster a communal spirit, and please the eyes as well as the ears of all in attendance.
To those of us far removed from the mid west, Spencer might seem like an unlikely place to hold a music festival but it is actually perfectly situated in many respects. It takes place on an amazing piece of private property called Stable Studios which unwittingly provides the perfect backdrop for a festival. The grounds have numerous rustic barns, large open fields, and plenty of wooded areas for camping/exploring.
Hyperion takes place about an hour away from Indianapolis so it is easily reachable from the nearby airport as well as within driving distance from a number of major midwestern cities. However, the most attractive aspect of this locale is definitely the people. The friendly crowd, event producers, property owners and local law enforcement all seemed incredibly happy to do their part to make Hyperion an overwhelming success.
Hyperion’s unique geography gives rise to a correspondingly unique festival experience. Unlike most festivals that rely heavily on the lineup, Hyperion takes a more holistic approach to creating its festival experience from the ground up. The benefits of this approach become obvious while you participate in the multitude of carnival like amusements collectively dubbed “the picnic”. The picnic itself is an event unlike anything you will experience at a music festival which is perplexing because it is so entertaining that it deserves to be at all of them.
On Saturday afternoon, during the peak of the festival’s excitement, Hyperion’s main thoroughfare is transformed into what amounts to a county fair like environment complete with delicious food stuffs, numerous giant inflatables, and most amazingly a free beer olympics. This is not to say that the lineup is a slouch in any way, shape or form. In fact quite the opposite is true given the popularity of the headliners Gramatik, Break Science, and Papadosio. However, Hyperion’s producers are more interested in creating an all encompassing audio/visual experience for a reasonable price ($80 presales, only $100 at the door) than the average festival. As such the lineup consists mainly of rising local acts, many of whom possess musical talent on par with their big name counterparts. As expected the headliners all play amazing sets (Break Science was particularly transcendent), but what really stands out are the members of the undercard who really left it all on stage. This year my hands down favorite performances were UV Hippo’s raucous Thursday night barn set, Dopapod’s smooth livetronica grooves, Snarky Puppy’s crunchy jams, and Bad Dagger’s sexy electro disco funk.
In a time where numerous music festivals compete for limited entertainment budgets festival goers are posed with the dilemma of choosing between giant festival franchises (Wakarusa, SummerCamp, Electric Forest) and small upstarts like Hyperion, often with mixed results. As festival culture becomes more mainstream most casual fans are diverted towards the former type of festival with huge headliners, VIP amenities, and astronomically high ticket prices. But over the last few years a reactionary movement of the hardcore festival heads has gravitated towards the newer ones in search of unspoiled stomping grounds.
More often than not these faithful festival followers find that what these newer offerings lack in bravado they make up for with their lively spirit and sense of community. However, when I attended Hyperion this year I got the distinct feeling that this festival was a very special case where the first years, though incredibly exciting, are only hinting at the true potential the festival possesses.
As Hyperion grows the producer’s have made it clear that they will be able to put together more storied lineups, add more amenities, and innovate interesting activities while still remaining true to their small town roots. It is this kind of commitment to their fans as well as their mission that gives me hope that Herm Productions will be able to grow Hyperion into a music festival that successfully walks the line between an intimate gathering and overgrown mess. So next year when you are making your festival decisions instead of blowing all your spending money on one huge outing please consider spreading it around by checking out some young upstarts like Hyperion, you (and your bank account) will be surely glad that you did.
All Images Via Crowds Eye